Nov-Dec: The thick of it

'Tis the season and all that but Pickleswatch senses there won't be much dinging, or indeed donging, merrily on high in the corridors of local government this Noel.

For after the Chancellor delivered his reassuring Autumn Statement message that everything is great thanks to him but also liable to implode at any second for reasons entirely beyond his control, the boffins at the Institute of Fiscal Studies posited that reaching the sunlit uplands of a £23bn surplus by 2019-2020 will require cuts prefaced with adjectives like "dramatic", "massive" and "colossal".

With health and pensions very much in sacred cow territory, it will be areas like transport, policing and, yes, local government facing the sort of squeeze that, according to IFS chief Paul Johnson, will leave the role of the state "changed beyond recognition".

Now, the Treasury might get its pound sign knickers in a twist about such "hyperbolic" carry-on but local gov might feel a slightly less intense sense of impending doom if the National Audit Office hadn't just concluded that Eric and DCLG have a somewhat laissez-faire approach to understanding what actually happens to services when you chop 40 per cent of their budgets.

Even as Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes warned of social unrest stirring as authorities face "impossible" cuts, the NAO raised concerns about how more than half of councils will deliver their medium-term financial plans.

Yet, it added, DCLG has no coordinated method for monitoring the impact of cuts and relies on others filling it in on unfortunate snafus, like services potentially tanking.

"The department really needs to be better informed about the situation on the ground among local authorities across England, in a much more active way, in order to head off serious problems before they happen," said NAO grand fromage Amyas Morse.

You might ask just what the Department for Communities & Local Government is doing if not keeping an eye on communities and local government - but never let it be said that the Pickles Posse are dodging the big issues. Oh by Jove, no.

"Municipal killjoys" and "health and safety zealots" putting a dampener on Guy Fawkes Night? Wabam! Eric produces a "common sense" guide to having a bonfire.

David Icke: He's on to you. Worried there might not be enough flag flying going on in these troubled times? Let's face it, who isn't? Kapow! Eric issues a rallying call to fly, fly away, whether your flag be Union, Cross of St George or county - heck, why not the whole lot?

"This country has witnessed a surge in flag flying in recent years," he actually said in November. Thanks, in no small part, to DCLG fearlessly making it easier to fly your colours sans a permit from the council. You're welcome.

For four years, Eric has personally championed the flying of local flags at the heart of Whitehall for...some reason...even running up the banners of the Falklands and Jersey just to remind Argentina and, er, the Nazis what's what. Say what you like, you can't question the man's commitment to flag flying.

And don't even get us started on the fight for the "fundamental right" to weekly bin collections. Seriously, don't. Because pesky Freedom of Information requests revealed in December that despite the P Man's tireless efforts, the average pick-up is 12 days. They literally put a man on the moon in less time.

Penny Mordaunt: Cock a hoop.It's all a question of priorities. Yes, you could spend time trying to understand the impact of cuts but then who would be looking after the bonfires, the flags and getting six per cent of councils to do weekly bin collections? Who, indeed, would have time to do dares with their old Navy chums about how many "cocks" they can get into their Commons speeches? Yo ho ho, Penny Mordaunt.

Oh it's very easy to have a pop. Even the Daily Mail lambasted Eric as the "minister for hot air" over those bloody bins.

And that wasn't the worst of it. David Icke branded Eric one of the "Illuminati criminals" on his website (number one in our Bookmarks) when the Mirror revealed the Chief had spent £500,000 in three years on ministerial motors.

Eric may be many things but we are almost certain he is probably not a fully paid-up shape-shifting reptilian intent on controlling humanity. Then again, that's just what he'd want us to think, isn't it?

Thankfully Brandon Lewis was on hand to remind us it was all a lot worse under the last lot. See? Priorities.

Merry Christmas!